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Confessions of a baseball purist

Confessions of a Baseball Purist - AP Photo/Cynthia Siegle

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) —

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tony Siegle started his big league career as a scoreboard operator at the Astrodome in 1965. He went on to work in the baseball operations departments for Milwaukee, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, the Angels, San Francisco, Colorado and Montreal/Washington. Now 80, he spent 13 seasons with the Giants before retiring on Dec. 31.

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After 54 years and three World Series rings, I have decided to retire from Major League Baseball front offices.

In the summer of 1944 my uncle took me to Shibe Park to see a contest between the Reds and Phillies. That was the start of my lifelong love of baseball.

Twenty-one years later I began my career with the first of eight major league teams, and I worked for 25 general managers and 25 field managers. I worked with numerous Hall of Famers, including Willie Mays and Hank Aaron; countless major and minor league ballplayers; and marvelous scouts and front office people. My memories of these associations are my proudest possessions.

And for the first time in over a half-century, I chose not to watch a spring baseball game or enter a spring training site this year.

Here’s why.

Being a traditionalist and a baseball purist, I long for baseball’s storied past: a simple, engaging and magical game. The Game, once run by a front office of dedicated, seasoned, work-experienced baseball men and women, has morphed into a game of many new owners and many untested general managers who never experienced working up through baseball’s development system. They are not aware of baseball’s rich history and not familiar with those who made the game great. They are aided only by college kids armed with computers, whose efforts have convinced most media types and team owners that personnel decisions should be based on analytics and statistics.

No longer are vital scouts and former players needed. Their experienced input and keen insights, their ability to look inside that player, their gathering of useful information is now discarded, replaced by VORP, WAR and launch angles.

Many good men are now out of work, scuffling for employment.

Where is the time when the proud uniform was uniform, complete with stirrup-like socks with white sanis showing and not a different clown uniform for each day of the week?

Where are the squeeze plays, hit and runs, steals, hitting behind runners?

What happened to the complete game and four-man rotations?

When did the home-run trot become a dance ritual? Why can’t a hitter who has just hit a home run gracefully circle the bases shaking hands only with his third base coach — watch a clip of a Mickey Mantle’s beautiful trot — and the on-deck hitter instead of the frenetic greetings and arrogant body movements accented by helmet grabbing and taunting gestures directed toward the other team’s dugout?

And why are there now only two statistics that matter: the home run and the strikeout?

And why does the length of a normal baseball game take almost four hours due to endless pitching changes and commercial breaks?

To boot, a spring game often has far too many players, many never to be seen again, compelling the manager to play them all.

And the greed-provoked obscene salaries and humongous ticket prices already have begun to erode the crucial and indispensable national interest.

Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and team owners please take heed before the game is killed and before the game we know and love gets thrown on the heap of the forgotten!

I close with a quote from 19th century Scottish poet and novelist Andrew Lang, a clairvoyant who saw baseball’s future without even knowing that he had: “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp post for support rather than illumination.”

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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